Monday, August 10, 2015

The Wrong Story

Summers are generally a time when I can really dig in and savour my writing time. I usually have full hours at a time that I can devote to my craft and my stories. This summer, however, has been extraordinarily full with far too many things to count. Which I though explained why my writing was going so slowly.

Apparently not.

Today, I decided to put aside the rewrite I've been struggling with and work on a different story that's been marinating for a while - a NaNo draft from last year. A story that is set in the same world as the Struggling Story. One that should happen after Struggling Story.

Apparently not.

I pulled up the story, and, as per my usual method lately, thought through the story without actually looking at more than scene titles, then wrote the first chapter out.

The first 3k flew out of my fingers. Not slowly, not grudgingly, not painfully.

So, instead of my crazy life killing my creativity, I've realized I've simply been working on the wrong story.

Struggling Story will go back in the stew pot and simmer for a while longer while my subconscious works away with it, and I'll focus on this draft that feels right.

How about you? Ever realize you're working on the wrong story?

Monday, August 3, 2015

Eliza Redgold & Critique Partners

Please welcome Eliza Redgold to the blog today!

***

I’ve been asked to write about my writing craft on my journey to publication and whether I work with a critique partner. I sure do! In fact, I’ve invited her to share this post!

Eliza Redgold: 
I have two critiquing processes. I’m part of a critique group with four other writers. We meet monthly
(with tea and cakes) to read and review a couple of chapters of each of our current works in progress. The Wordwrights group includes Janet Woods, Deb Bennetto, Karen Saayman and Carol Hoggart. They’re all very different writers. Janet is a multi-published and well-known English saga writer, Karen writes suspense, Deb writes romance and Carol is currently working on historical fiction (along with her PhD).  They saw the manuscript for NAKED in various stages of undress. I always appreciate their feedback, even when it is tough love.

I also have the most amazing critique partner, romance author Jenny Schwartz. We met at an authors’ lunch and I knew we’d be friends when she laughed at a rather risqué joke I made. Jenny reads the full manuscript when it’s done. She’s got an enviable eye for detail and plots brilliantly, but what I appreciate most is that she’s a woman of integrity. She has values she lives and writes by.  My characters are always better people but the time Jenny has finished with them!

Having someone else read your work is only part of the journey. For me, reading other writers’ work and thinking about it deeply helps to hone the craft. Most importantly, it offers friendship and company along the way. Ain’t that what it’s all about?

Jenny Schwartz:
Eliza’s jokes are funny. People at our favourite beach café must wonder what the heck we’re talking about, we’re laughing so much. Sorry, guys, it’s work. We swear, it’s work! But writing – or rather, talking about writing and the fast-changing world of publishing – is fun when you’re chatting with a kindred soul.

I can’t tell you how much Eliza has improved my writing, especially my plotting. I now have an invisible Eliza who bursts out of the cupboard in my study to haunt me when I fall into plotting errors. I have entire (imaginary) conversations with her before, grumbling and muttering, I take her advice and my plot problems miraculously solve themselves.
That’s how important a good critique partner is – they show you your weaknesses and your strengths and help you to work on both. 

 **
ELIZA REDGOLD is an author, academic and unashamed romantic. She writes historical fiction (St Martin’s Press) and romance (Harlequin).

“NAKED: A Novel of Lady Godiva” will be released internationally by St Martin’s Press New York in July 2015. Her ‘Romance your Senses’ series of contemporary romances are published by Harlequin (MIRA) Australia and Escape Publishing. They include Black Diamonds, Hide and Seek and Wild Flower (2015 release). Eliza is also contracted to Harlequin Historical (London) for two upcoming Victorian historical romances. Look out for them! She is represented by Joelle Delbourgo Associates US.

Eliza Redgold is based upon the old, Gaelic meaning of her name, Dr Elizabeth Reid Boyd. English folklore has it that if you help a fairy, you will be rewarded with red gold. She has presented academic papers on women and romance and is a contributor to the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Romance Fiction. As a non-fiction author she is co-author of Body Talk: a Power Guide for Girls and Stay-at-Home Mothers: Dialogues and Debates. She was born in Irvine, Scotland on Marymass Day and currently lives in Australia.

By day a mild-mannered university lecturer with a PhD, by night she is a wild-mannered writer of historical fiction and romances. “Writing makes me braver. It has inspired adventures (and misadventures!) in travel, nature, art, literature and even gastronomy. I hope my books will inspire you too! They’re for people who love a good story, but want to discover new things. They also feature adventurous heroines who are prepared to take risks in life and love. Though in life and in love, of course, things never go quite as planned …”

Eliza Redgold on the web:
Website             Facebook      Twitter      Author Page

NAKED: A Novel of Lady Godiva
We know her name. We know of her naked ride. We don't know her true story.

We all know the legend of Lady Godiva, who famously rode naked through the streets of Coventry,Naked is an original version of Godiva's tale with a twist that may be closer to the truth: by the end of his life Leofric had fallen deeply in love with Lady Godiva. A tale of legendary courage and extraordinary passion, Naked brings an epic story new voice.
Covered only by her long, flowing hair. So the story goes, she begged her husband Lord Leofric of Mercia to lift a high tax on her people, who would starve if forced to pay. Lord Leofric demanded a forfeit: that Godiva ride naked on horseback through the town. There are various endings to Godiva's ride, that all the people of Coventry closed their doors and refused to look upon their liege lady (except for 'peeping Tom') and that her husband, in remorse, lifted the tax.

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Enter this Goodreads Giveaway to win signed copy of Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva.
A Kindle copy giveaway of Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva to one commenter!
***
Thanks Eliza!!
I totally agree - critique partners are worth their weight in gold and chocolate! How about you? Want to give them a shout out in the comments?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

First Verbs

I'm over at From the Write Angle today talking about verbs and their power in the querying process.

Verbs are equally powerful in our stories. We did exactly 2 creative writing activities when I was in school. Both of these Grade 6 assignments without any teaching about what worked and didn't work in fiction. (Yes, that means I did exactly 0 creative writing in school from kindergarten until my final year of university.)

We did diagram far too many sentences, so I least I knew my parts of speech. And I knew what nouns and verbs were. I also knew that all the sentences we diagrammed were chock full of adverbs and adjectives (the better to diagram with, my dear). Therefore, my 2 assignments were equally full of adverbs and adjectives.

Which meant weak verbs.

Sigh.

Anyway, over at From the Write Angle, I've included the first few verbs of the query I used several years ago (haven't queried since, still working on improving the craft!).

Thought I'd try the same here, using the story I'm currently revising. First few verbs:

plated
made
bumped
headed
graced
reached
quailed
fled

(Past tense verbs sound odd when strung together!)
Putting the list together makes me think I need another round of revising/editing here. While the verbs aren't bad, they don't give a great sense of the story. Hmmm, off to do some thinking!

What about you? Willing to share your first couple of verbs?

Monday, July 6, 2015

Jacqui Jacoby & Research

Please welcome Jacqui Jacoby to the blog today!

***

Research, the Sauce of the Story

I have a movie I like a lot.  It came out in 2009, a sequel to its predecessor.  But in this movie one of the characters, of Mexican heritage, says while in a fight scene “Tabasco sauce? Who else but us would think up that stuff?”(paraphrase)
Love the director.  Love the actors.  
However, a quick Google search of twenty seconds reveals:

“Tabasco Sauce was first produced in 1868 by Edmund McIlhenny, a Maryland-born former banker who moved to Louisiana around 1840.”**

Love the movie still, but that line always annoys me.  And someone should have checked it.
Research is what we do to give depth to the books we are writing.  We may know the hero’s hair is blond and his eyes are brown, but it takes more to make him come alive and bounce off the page.
He needs hobbies, he needs a job.  Somewhere along the line before he hit page one, he was born, giving him two parents, maybe a sibling.  Did he get his love Golden Retrievers from that his family had?  
How about, how does he like his coffee?
I always need to know how my characters like their coffee. I think it gives them personality.  The tough hero? Black?  Or three sugars and cream? Very telling.
In 1986 I was at UCLA using The Young Library catalog card system to check out every fact I had to check.  That library had a lot floors and a dime for every copy at one of the strategically placed photocopy machines.  
Now we have Google and I hear a browser history of where we go on our research trips. In writing DEAD MEN PLAY THE GAME, I was all over the board.  I had a large cast of characters with varying skills and interests.  One day I literally had to find a wedding dress for the heroine,  the Italian pronunciation of “My Beautiful”, learn how to make how to make a Sapphire Martini, build a detonator to explode the gas line and find the best method used to  cut a man’s throat--is it right to left if you come up behind or left to right?
(I’ve often wondered what my NSA guy is thinking as he reads my latest list of searches)
Print what you find online and put it in a note book under the proper heading.  Photocopy what you get out of books.  It you watch it, and I do use movies to get the feel of something (i.e. Young Guns for a western) take notes of what stands out.  Write everything down that is important to your novel.  Make sure you have a method to retrieve the information you locate because I can promise you, when you get to page 300 in the book after five months of work, you might not remember how that gun operated.
Fiction is our imagination coming to life on the page.  Though the story is made up, a lot of what we put into won’t be.  Look hard for that one piece of fact that will blend into the worlds we build … and stay away from Tabasco Sauce.


** June 23, 2015, from   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tabasco Sauce
Award-winning author, Jacqui Jacoby lives and writes in the beauty of Northern Arizona. She is the owner of Body Count Productions, Inc, which keeps her career moving. Currently adjusting to being an empty nester with her first grandchild to draw her pictures, Jacqui is a self-defense hobbyist. Having studied martial arts for numerous years, she retired in 2006 from the sport, yet still brings the strength she learned from the discipline to her characters. She is a working writer, whose career includes writing books, teaching online and live workshops and penning short nonfiction.

Follow her at www.jacquijaxjacoby.com

http://jaxsmovielist.blogspot.com/

Twitter        Facebook

ALSO BY JACQUI JACOBY 
With a Vengeance

COMING SOON

Dead Men Play The Game
Magic Man

Dead Men Seal the Deal

Dead Men Feel the Heat

Dead Men Heal Slowly
Blurb:
DEAD MEN PLAY THE GAME: For a hundred years Ian Stuart has fought against the monster controlling his life, living as a human among humans with his four friends: Travis, Jason, Quinn and Evan. He wanted his personal loneliness to go away. Detective Ashley Barrow is working the worst murder case in Davenport, Oregon's history. She wants a drink, she wants some quiet and she walks in to sit on the stool in Ian Stuart’s pub.
Buy Links:

Amazon Kindle     iBooks on Apple store      Amazon Paperback      iBookStore     B&N      

Kobo                    Amazon UK                     Amazon Aus                Smashwords 

Enter this Goodreads giveaway to win copies of Dead Men Play The Game!
***
Thanks Jacqui! Research is SO important because of those little details that irk. I've used my Twitter buddies multiple times to check facts on regional details too (especially vocabulary!).
How about you? Any incorrect facts in movies or books that bug you?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Robin Gianna & Research to Enrich Your Story

Please welcome Robin Gianna to the blog today!

***

RESEARCH TO ENRICH YOUR STORY

I hear some of you saying, “Oh, yes, I loove to research,” as you gleefully rub your hands together.  Also hear others saying, “Research. Bah. Hate it,” as you drop your heads to your desk.

There are potential problems with both attitudes. Research lovers sometimes spend so much time at it, the book takes forever to get written. Or never gets written at all. Haters do the bare minimum, and miss out on ways just a little extra research can not only strengthen a story, but sometimes send it in a new direction.

Every time I get on the internet to look things up, I’m amazed all over again at the resources literally at our fingertips. What’s the average temperature in Cambridge, England in November?   Where are the trendy places to live in Paris? Images of the people and landscape of West Africa?  All found in remarkably little time (double-checked for accuracy, of course). But don’t stop there.  

Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I also go to the library to grab books that might help. I got lucky to find an amazing memoir (The House
at Sugar Beach by Helene Cooper) when I was writing a book set in Liberia that educated me about life there before and after the recent, devastating civil wars. That memoir helped me greatly with small details that I believe made the story stronger.

And there’s nothing like talking to people who are experts on a subject, which I do all the time to learn a about various medical details and different medical specialties.  Most everyone is happy to share his or her expertise.

An important thing to keep in mind? Whatever research camp you fall into, don’t let it bog you down. I recommend that you get the story started so you have the characters and basics firmly in your mind first. When you’re getting words on the page and realize there’s a detail you need to find out about, just make a note to yourself in that spot and keep going forward.  

But don’t let too many chapters pass before setting aside the time to research. You may discover things that lend themselves to entire scenes, a recurring theme, or even a whole new direction that you never would have written at all if you hadn’t learned whatever inspired it.

Here are a few examples of ways research helped me as a writer and enriched my stories:  

  1. My debut book was set in Benin, West Africa. I chose that setting because my husband had worked in a mission hospital there, and had great stories and photos which I used as the foundation.  But in doing additional research, one of the things I learned is that Benin is the birthplace of Voodoo, or Vodun as they call it.  I integrated that into the story, and it played a minor, but significant, recurring role in the story.
  2. I wrote a Valentine’s themed book set in Paris, which meant February, which meant no romantic moments in a warm park amid blooming roses!  So I had to look for other things to do in Paris, and in studying the weather, found it rains and snows quite a bit which lent itself to a recurring theme with an umbrella and some kissing beneath it!  Also ended up sending them to the Alsace region to do some snow-shoeing and visit a medieval town and vineyard, all of which were important scenes.
  3. My upcoming November release is part of a continuity with other authors, where all the stories are set in Cambridge, England. As I researched, I learned there’s a river that meanders throughout the city. Punting (pushing a boat with a pole, a bit like in Venice but the boats are flat) is popular there, both as a sport and a leisure activity. That became a big part of my story, with what I hope are some fun scenes on the River Cam. :-)
  4. My current release takes place in and near Delphi, Greece. While I was inspired to set it there after a fabulous trip last summer, and had many first-hand memories and details, there were lots of things I learned later.  One important bit of information was that the area is prone to earthquakes, and that they had a huge one in 2009 that damaged much of the area. That was such an ah-ha moment for me, it changed several important parts of my story, one of which is that the heroine’s parents’ died during the earthquake (I originally had it happen in a plane crash, but the earthquake worked much better). I won’t tell you the other way the earthquake factors into the medical mystery in the story - you’ll just have to read it to find out for yourself! ;-)

So remember - research isn’t just about those little details like average temperatures and trendy places to live and what people wear. It truly will inspire new ideas and directions that will make your story stronger and maybe even easier to write.  And isn’t that always a great thing? 

How about you?  Research lover or hater?  Have any stories to share about ways it enriched one of your stories?

About Robin
After completing a degree in journalism, working in the advertising industry, then becoming a stay-at-home mom, Robin Gianna had what she likes to call her ‘awakening’. She decided she wanted to write the romance novels she’d loved since her teens.  Robin embarked on that quest by joining RWA and a local chapter, and working hard at learning the craft of fiction writing.
Robin loves pushing her characters toward their own happily-ever-afters! When she’s not writing, Robin’s life is filled with a happily messy kitchen, a needy garden, a wonderful husband, three great kids, a drooling bulldog and one grouchy Siamese cat.
Robin Gianna on the web:

Website             Facebook         Twitter

Robin Gianna’s new release. Her Greek Doctor’s Proposal, HM&B Medical Romance


The question he thought he'd never ask… 

Archaeologist Laurel Evans put her career on hold to care for her younger sisters. Now, close to achieving her goals, she won't let anything distract her. Laurel has come to Delphi to dig up ancient treasures, but she finds a modern-day Greek god instead—local doctor Andros Drakoulias!

A devoted single dad, Andros is determined to give his little girl stability. He knows his fling with Laurel can't last, so why is it so hard to imagine a future without her by his side?

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Buy Links:

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Amazon UK 

Harlequin US

Mills & Boon UK

B&N
***
Thanks Robin! I fall into the "Love Research" camp - and it can definitely lead to way too much time disappearing!

How about you? Which Research Camp do you fall into?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Joys of June

Halfway through June already! Crazy how time is flying this year. Probably a side effect of life trying to swallow me whole.

Only two weeks left in the school year - and I can't wait to dig into the two stories I'm working on. I never have much time for writing in June, and this year I've had to add in a lot of physio therapy as well as home exercises (old high school injuries have come back to haunt me with a vengeance!!!), and some home renovations that have grown from the original plans (as per usual).

So, for now, the stories are mostly marinating in my head, then short scenes are exploding onto paper when I have a chance to write. A definite plus of being busy is when I do have time to write, there's no such thing as writer's block.

How about you? Does writer's block drive you nuts? Do your scenes explode out of you as well? Is your life completely bonkers at the moment? If so, sending hugs and chocolate!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Learning to Love Revising

I'm over at From the Write Angle today talking about what I've learned about rewriting. I'm nowhere near Expert level at this, but I've learned a lot in the last few years!

I MUCH prefer that initial draft - in fact, I could probably write 1st drafts forever and be happy.

But, I've learned to enjoy revising as well. I didn't think it would ever happen, but it has.

I like rereading that draft and finding sections I love, and sections that need to be eliminated post-haste!

I've learned to like weaving in details - although I'm still working at learning to weave in more description. Anyone else find that really, really hard???

I love the slash and burn rounds of editing. Trimming the story and finding those redundant phrases fills me with giddy pleasure. Weird, but true.

Adding/Deleting plot lines isn't something I'm adept at yet, but I'm working on it. Still gives me nightmares though!

How about you? What's your favourite (or least favourite!) part of the revising process?
(Hope to see you over at From the Write Angle!)